Kingston Pike office closes for new facilities

The end of an era has recently arrived for the Kingston Pike area across from the West Town Mall.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol headquarters that had been there since the mid-1960s—and even predated the mall by several years—closed.

A new, larger facility at 1755 Neals Commerce Lane off Interstate 40‘s Strawberry Plains opened Jan. 31, the second most recent corporate headquarters to open statewide behind Jackson’s. The last day for the West Knoxville site was January 25.

While the West Knoxville Highway Patrol building has long been part of the visual landscape of this part of town, it is also part of the psyche of many Knoxville residents. Although the public foot traffic there in recent years has been lighter thanks to people mainly getting accident reports, during its early decades it was the place you went to get tested to receive a driver’s license .

Many Knoxville-area 16-year-olds had their moment of truth there before separate facilities for such services were later opened.

“I remember going there to get my learner’s license and my driver’s license,” said longtime West Hills resident Nancy Richer, who is now in her 60s. “Sorry to see him go.”

Retired Major Cheryl Sanders, who worked with the THP out of headquarters from 1983 and served until her retirement in 2020, is also a bit sentimental about the end of an era for the venue.

“It felt like home to us,” she said. “I’m sad to see him go.”

She said the THP had been looking for a new location for years, and the fact that the West Town Mall area was so suitable for commercial real estate development was the reason for the move.

Among his memories of the building are the monthly meetings of the Fraternal Order of Police, Christmas gatherings with staff, and even the blizzard of 1993, when the number of calls was overwhelming before automation.

“A soldier had to help answer the phones, and the call load was unreal,” she said.

She also recalled green lights and red lights on a wall that would indicate whether a soldier was available or tied up or off duty before the dispatch system was moved elsewhere.

According to some old newspaper reports, the Kingston Pike facility was built to replace THP’s former headquarters located where the road connecting Interstate 40 and the Alcoa Highway was being built. An artist’s rendering of the new installation in the Knoxville newspaper in early April 1965 showed the design by architect Sam Good of Good and Goodstein, whose offices were at 825 North Central.

It was designed in the classic mid-century style with a long one-story layout, smooth fine stone on part of the exterior, uniquely shaped vertical windows, a glass entrance and colored brickwork. Claire.

The caption stated that the new facility would include offices for Highway Patrol and something called the Tennessee Identification Bureau, communications, a fallout shelter, a kitchenette and sleeping quarters for four soldiers, license examination facilities for drive, squad room and radio repair. store.

It was also to have parking for about 75 cars, a helipad and a large antenna.

When the building was completed in the spring of 1966, another photograph showed Lt. Mitchell Moody examining a center console, where a dispatcher could talk to 50 troop cars in an 11-county area by radio or telephone.

The building was officially opened on July 27, 1966. Governor Frank Clement, Security Commissioner Greg O’Rear, and former U.S. Senator Herbert Walters, for whom the building was named, were present for the ceremonies.

Walters was nominated to serve Estes Kefauver’s remaining Senate term after his death in 1963. Born in Jefferson County and educated at Carson-Newman University and the University of Tennessee, the building laureate had won money in road construction before entering politics. Walters died in 1973 and was buried in Emma Jarnagin Cemetery in Morristown.

As for the former Kingston Pike site, where a car with a giant nail has sat in recent years to warn teenagers about the dangers of drunk driving, Sanders assumes the property has already been sold, although that she’s not completely sure. The sale will no doubt fund state coffers, although it’s unclear if any developer would want to save the retro building constructed during the Vietnam War and space race era.

The many stories of how the building has served soldiers and the Knoxville-area state community for the past 55+ years are also likely to add richness in terms of memories.

“It’s a really cool building with a lot of great memories,” Sanders said.

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